Ellie would have turned 11. It is so hard to imagine because she has been forever frozen at 9. All around us, Ellie's friends have turned into long-legged pre-teens. They have one foot in the make-believe world of children while the other presses forward into grown-up land. In many ways Ellie already experienced some of that kind of split personality. Just before she died, Ellie told me that she wanted to decorate her bedroom in horses. By the next day she had completely changed her mind and decided on black and white photos with candles on shelves. Simple and elegant. She was dreaming of boyfriends and weddings, but couldn't resist the pull of her Barbies and baby-dolls. So I suppose the image of Ellie at 11 isn't so difficult to conjur... but therein lies the rub. I miss the 11 year old Ellie that I never got to know. Tonight we went through hundreds of old photos of the kids at various stages. We laughed at the funny chipmunk-cheek pictures of Ellie at two, and marveled at what a loving big sister she was at four. There were a few photos that I just wanted to jump right into and live all over again. But mostly I wanted the pictures to keep going so that I could watch Ellie change from 9 to 10... and to 11.
So tomorrow I will wear the bracelet that Ellie made for me when we went together to a bead shop years ago. I will try not to cry on the way to work... at work... and on the way home from work. Maybe working will help somehow. I don't really know. I just know that right now I am so sad. Not because my firstborn is no longer a little girl who is growing up too fast... I'm sad because she never will grow up. I won't get to take her shopping for her first bra or teach her how to apply makeup. Or help her plan her wedding. I'm not sad for Ellie. She got to die so innocent and sweet. I'm just sad for me... for the things that I will miss.
But God is ever loving and tender with me. This weekend I was struck with the realization that I have four precious nieces and some of Ellie's friends who just might need their Auntie Sarah to shop for pretty clothes with them and admire their sparkly shoes. Yesterday as I sat and braided sweet Maddie's hair, I felt a peaceful kind of joy. There are little girls who love me. Who put their arms around me and soothe me with their... girliness.
And I have a son who reminds me that I am still a mom. He delights in the "gushiness" of my tummy as only a six year old can appreciate. He reminds me everyday in so many little ways that I am still needed.
Speaking of small boys... yesterday Ethan experienced a milestone. He lost his first tooth! Ellie would have been proud beyond words. Ethan pulled it out himself. Ellie would have cried for days at the very thought of pulling out her own tooth (in fact, I believe that she did cry for days over it). Ethan simply walked back to the hall and looked in the mirror. We heard him say "I got it. Didn't even hurt!" and out he walked, tooth in hand.